Maxfield Parrish

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Maxfield Parrish was an influential and prolific American painter and illustrator, who was ranked amongst the most commercially successful and highest paid artists of the US during the 1920s. He is celebrated and famed for his iconic depictions of fantasy landscapes that featured exotic and beautiful women. Indeed, Parrish was the most popular and famous commercial artist of the US in the early 20th century.

Maxfield Parrish was born on July 25, 1870, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His father, Stephen Parrish, who was also an artist was young Maxfield’s earliest and greatest inspiration and influence. He began to exhibit a natural talent and budding passion for art from a very early age, and he would spend most of his time drawing and doodling away. In 1891, Maxfield began his artistic training at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and later, in 1895, he attended the Drexel Institute of Art.

Upon completing his education, Maxfield began his artistic career by designing and illustrating several iconic posters, magazine covers, books, as well as advertisements. His career was truly launched in 1897, when he received the commission to illustrate Kenneth Graham’s ‘The Walls were as of Jasper’. His work began garnering much attention, and by the 1920s, Parrish emerged as the most demanded and highest paid commercial artist in the USA. His iconic and famous illustrations are celebrated and remembered by the American public till this day. Over the next decades, he went on to work on several influential and prestigious commissions, which include the iconic and traditional, ‘Arabian Nights’, and Eugene Field’s ‘Poems of Childhood’. Much of his fame and wealth was a credit to his commercially successful and well celebrated illustrations for posters, magazines, books and calendars

Meanwhile, Parrish also took out time for his passion of painting, and soon, he began developing murals and landscapes that depicted a creative and exuberantly stunning world of fantasies. His work is characterised by his diligent attention to perfection and detail, natural lights of the background, dreamlike and surreal tones of colours that served to create a fantasy world that features beautiful and charming young women. Maxfield Parrish’s career lasted for many decades, and with his highly acclaimed and unique style he shaped the Golden Age of Illustration, and the development of visual art in America.

His paintings had the power of exporting the viewer from reality to an idyllic fantasy land that was populated by attractive and beautiful nude women. His use of luminous colours created a dazzling effect on the canvas, and the shade ‘Parrish Blue’ has been coined after his frequent use of the colour. Maxfield Parrish was truly an original artist with a unique style of his own, which was not influenced by any movement, group, school or artist.

Some of his most famous and widely acclaimed works include, ‘Daybreak’, ‘Summer’, ‘Study for Autumn Brook’, ‘The Sugar-Plum Tree’, ‘Hill Top Farm, Winter’, ‘The Dinky Bird’, ‘The Lantern Bearers’, ‘The Knave of Hearts’, ‘White Birch’, ‘Contentment’, ‘Grand Canyon’, ‘Puss in Boots’ and ‘At Close of Day’ among many others.


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